Vientiane, 19 July 2021 – Today, Lao PDR received a new shipment of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility – a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNICEF as key delivery partner – consisting of 1,008,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine. This is part of the United States’contribution to the ongoing global efforts to end the pandemic, and support for Lao PDR’s goal to vaccinate 50 percent of its population by the end of 2021.
This latest shipment of vaccines was handed over to the Government of Lao PDR in an official ceremony at the Wattay International Airport. The handover ceremony was chaired by H.E. Ms. Pany Yathotou, Vice President of Lao PDR, and was also attended by H.E. Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, Dr. Peter M. Haymond, Dr Dr. Gao Jun, WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR and Ms. Beate Dastel, UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR, as well as by other partners.
“The Government of Lao PDR highly values the continued efforts of the Government of the United States of America and the American people in assisting the Government and the Lao people. This assistance, in the form of COVID-19 donated doses, is a clear indication of the good cooperation between our two countries, the Lao PDR and the United States of America, under the comprehensive partnership. I am confident that the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will accelerate the efforts to reach 50 percent of the population in 2021,” remarked H.E. Ms. Pany Yathotou, Vice President of Lao PDR.
With this donation of 1,008,000 doses, which is a direct contribution from the American people to the Lao PDR, the Lao Government will be able to provide protection against the virus to more than one million people, out of the country’s approximately 7 million total population.
The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine differs from other types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Lao PDR as it only requires a single dose. In addition, the J&J/Janssen vaccine can be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures, which makes it ideally suited for immunizing populations in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
“I am proud to represent the United States Government in providing these lifesaving vaccines to the people of the Lao PDR,” remarked H.E. Dr. Peter M. Haymond, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Lao PDR. “Today’s donation will ensure that more than one million additional Lao people – approximately 14 percent of the Lao PDR population – will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This brings the Lao PDR closer to its goal of vaccinating 50 percent of its population by the end of 2021, and brings the world closer to ending this pandemic,” he added.
The Lao PDR Government will use these J&J/Janssen doses to first vaccinate priority groups, including people above 60 years of age, people with underlying health conditions, and health workers across the country, in line with the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan and further plan for its use to other target population, including those in remote and hard to reach areas.
“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines and vaccinating the world’s most vulnerable has been the key priorities for WHO. The United States’ support is very timely as it comes at a time when the country needs it most and will help bring the vaccines to those most in need in hard-to-reach areas,” said Dr. Gao Jun, WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR.
At the G7 Summit, members pledged to help low- and middle-income countries access vaccines by donating doses. We urge well-supplied countries to follow the U.S. Government’s example of making dose donations immediately, with ongoing donations over the coming months.
“Vaccines save lives as progress in childhood immunization over the last decades has shown. Thus, it brings me joy to see the steady progress we are collectively making towards vaccinating the Lao population. I would like to thank the United States of America, particularly the U.S. Embassy in Lao PDR and USAID, for their generous contribution. Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us, children included. As the virus mutates producing new variants, the need to join hands to defeat it is even greater. Donating doses now is a smart policy that speaks to our collective best interests,” stated Ms. Beate Dastel, UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR.
In addition to this latest shipment of the J&J/Janssen vaccines, Lao PDR previously received a shipment of 132,000 doses of Astra Zeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021 and also a shipment of 100,620 doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines in early June 2021, both of which were procured through the COVAX Facility.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and CEPI, working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organizations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Gavi board members represented in Lao PDR include Australia, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Japan, The Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.